Chapter 2 - Holy distance
"I can't believe you're leaving me."
Maria said as she slid her books into her locker.
"I know.. but, I can't stay here anymore. At least I have my brother if it weren't for him... well who knows."
I didn't even want to consider what would happen if it weren't for Jackson.
"Who am I supposed to complain about everyone else to now? I can't very well complain about all the idiots with said idiots can I?"
Maria was the only soul at this school that I'd dare spend time with. She was the only girl here other than me who realized that we're here to learn and not to... well not to do whatever it was all these other girls did all day. I wished I could just take her with me. This place didn't deserve her.
"Nope, you can't. But I'll call you every day and you can vent to me all you'd like."
She said before slamming her locker.
Two days later, I stepped out of an airport and into another life as I looked around for my brother. Where the heck was he? Just as that thought crossed my mind my cell phone buzzed in my back pocket.
"Where are you at?"
Hello was overrated.
"I had something to take care of at work... My buddy is there waiting, he's in the white Bronco."
I looked around at all the cars waiting for their passengers to arrive until my eyes landed on the Bronco... A tanned God-like creature opened the door with a scowl on his face, my brother was still talking but I didn't have the slightest clue what he was saying. I was to busy studying the stranger's perfect face. His thick brows were drawn together and I could already tell how excited he was that he was picking me up. I pulled my suitcase behind me and walked toward him.
"He's here. See you later, Jackson."
I slid my phone into my pocket before speaking to the stranger but he beat me to it.
"Are you River?"
"Yep. Jackson didn't tell me your name, just that you were his friend."
He took my suitcase and lifted it up into his back seat before grabbing the bag off of my shoulder.
"I'm Beau and your brother is an idiot. He forgot to take off work today."
"Well, I can't argue with you there."
He reached out to open his passenger side door for me.
Look at that, chivalry wasn't dead.
He walked around and climed into the driver's side and wasted no time whipping his vehicle onto the road.
"Thanks for picking me up. I could've called a taxi."
"A taxi? That's too dangerous."
I looked over at him to see him staring at me, scowling again. Geez, he was easy to annoy.
I opened my mouth to respond but again, he beat me to it.
"Besides its over eighty miles, that's one expensive taxi ride."
Wait did he say eighty miles?
"Oh my gosh, you're right. My brother is an idiot. I'm so sorry you had to drive all the way here to pick me up."
Holy distance now I felt terrible.
"Are you hungry? Let me buy you dinner or something. It's the least I can do."
I peeked over at him through my lashes to see that the scowl had returned. It should've just been a permanent fixture on his face at this point. What did I say now?
He didn't say anything, he just leaned over and turned the radio up and I took that as my cue to just sit back and be quiet. He had already gone out of his way to come all the way here to pick me up, taking a hint was the best I could give him at this point. After a few minutes, the song changed and Beau leaned over again and changed the station, settling into some classic rock.
"Didn't like that song?"
"No, it's not appropriate."
He looked over at me and sighed.
"You shouldn't be listening to that."
What the hell?
"Look, dude... I've been left to my own devices since Jackson moved out. Music isn't going to hurt me."
A noise traveled over from his direction and it took me a few seconds to realize that he was laughing. I wasn't sure he was capable of it but my gosh it wasn't an obnoxious noise like I'd hoped.
"Why are you laughing?"
"I didn't anticipate you being so... Feisty."
I crossed my arms and returned his scowl back to him which only made him laugh harder. What was up with this guy?
"Well prepare yourself, you haven't seen anything yet."
He put his blinker on and merged onto the interstate.
I wanted to be quiet, to make him suffer in silence but that would mean I'd be doing the same.
"Do you like cookies?"
I just couldn't shut my mouth.
He cleared his throat.
"I'm making cookies when we get there. I know Jackson already has all the ingredients because he's been bugging me about making them. Consider that your payment."
"What kind of cookies?"
Oh my, we're we actually having a conversation?
"Peanut butter oatmeal cookies."
"I love peanut butter."
He grinned at me.
Jesus, why did he have to do that?
"How much longer?"
"About forty-five minutes."
After forty-five minutes of silence, we pulled up to Jackson's house.
"He won't be back for an hour or so but I'll stay with you until then."
He assured me as he took my luggage out of the back seat.
"Oh no, you don't have to do that. I'll be fine."
I wanted to tell him that I was used to being alone, that I'd been that way for a while but based on the way he was looking at me, that would only make him more annoyed.
"I'm sure you'd be fine alone, but I'm still staying."
He put my bag over his shoulder and pulled my suitcase behind him as he stalked toward the front door. He unlocked the door and gestured for me to go in first. I was shocked at how pristine the living room was. This was not the Jackson I grew up with. You could very rarely see the floor in his room because it was just too messy but this place was spotless.
"I'll just leave your things here, I'm not sure which room he's set up for you."
I saie but I was too busy looking around to concentrate. I found my way to the kitchen and started opening cabinets.
He had a crockpot?
What did he need a crockpot for?
It looked as if it'd never been used. I continued my exploration and found way more kitchen gadgets than I ever expected Jackson to own. I walked to his pantry and gathered all the ingredients I'd need for the cookies into my arms and shut the door with my foot only to almost jump right out my skin when I saw Beau's large body standing on the other side.
"Need help with those?"
My God he needed a bell or something.
I didn't respond so he took it upon himself to start taking items out of my hands and placed them on the counter.
"He has a mixer somewhere."
Beau said as he searched through the cabinets.
Why was he still here? Didn't he have somewhere else to be?
"You don't have to help."
I looked at him. Really looked at him for the first time. He looked tired, like he could use a nap. But his eyes... They looked almost hypnotic and I had to force my gaze away from the deep blue.
"I know, I want to."
But why? I wanted to ask so bad. But instead, I passed him the measuring cups and the peanut butter.
An hour later we were sitting across from each other at my brother's kitchen table, staring at the cookies, waiting for them to cool off enough to shove them in our mouths.
He parted his lips to say something and I straightened up in my seat, giving him my full attention when the front door swung open and my big brother came barrelling through making a beeline right for me.
"Riv! You already made cookies?"
He pulled me off the chair and into his arms.
"Yes... Jackson, I can't breathe, you're squeezing me too hard."
I squeaked out.
He placed me back on the ground but didn't let go of me.
"Shit! What is that? It smells so good in here."
Another guy walked through the front door and I suddenly had the feeling that this was a common occurrence here.
"Watch your mouth."
Both my brother and Beau snapped at the same time.
The new guy cocked his head to the side, looking at them like they had lost their minds.
Beau raised his eyebrows and I could tell he's hoping this guy will question him but Jackson saved him the trouble.
"My baby sister is here."
He said while pulling me closer into his side.
Yep, here I was.